Pakistan and India: Friends abroad always, enemies at home always always

Published: August 22, 2016

Pak-India Flag PHOTO: AFP

As someone who had been raised in the United States by Pakistani immigrants, I have always found it difficult to fathom the animosity between Pakistanis and Indians living in South Asia. All the aspects of life that bring the two groups together – from music and food, to values and mannerisms – get clouded out by the venomous politics between the countries’ governments.

During this time of celebration for the 69th year of independence of Pakistan and India, I strongly believe that the only way forward is for the citizens of both these countries to recognise their shared experiences and heritage, and to cooperate for a more prosperous future – like the people in the South Asian diaspora do.

At the intergovernmental level, Indo-Pak relations have unfortunately been sour from the dawn of independence, largely due to the horrific violence that occurred during partition. Since then, there have been three wars, territorial disputes, nuclear proliferation, limited trade and travel across the border, tutelage of hateful propaganda, and much more. Every time relations begin to improve between Pakistan and India, some kind of spoiler inevitably seems to emerge.

A toxic environment has become entrenched in the subcontinent, such that economic and political cooperation between the two states is nearly impossible. It is somewhat understandable then that people begin to lose hope in the prospects for lasting Indo-Pak peace, much less friendship. However, it is not as if Indians and Pakistanis can never or will never get along, there should still be hope for the future.

Indeed, all one has to do is leave the subcontinent and pay a visit to the global South Asian exodus to find the exact opposite. Whether in the suburbs of New Jersey or the neighbourhoods of London, people of Indian and Pakistani origin – both immigrants and their children – are often the best of friends. In a strange but logical way, Pakistanis and Indians become closer and closer the farther they are from their homelands.

Outside of South Asia, where people live under different circumstances and take on new national identities, the hyper-nationalist rhetoric fuelling Indo-Pak hatred gradually loses importance. What remains are aspects of culture like language, music, cuisine, and even sports. In the United States, where Indians and Pakistanis find themselves few in number, I often see cooperation and solidarity between the two groups. Whether it’s arranging a concert of classical South Asian music or setting up cricket clubs, people of desi origin in America successfully come together. Desis in the United States even naturally cluster in the same geographical neighbourhoods and support each other’s endeavours such as restaurants, grocery stores, businesses and so on.

In my own life, my Indian-American friends and I have shared great memories. We have helped each other move apartments, attended desi concerts together, and supported each other through thick and thin. When tensions escalate between India and Pakistan, it does not affect our friendship, not because we are indifferent – since we have so many relatives there and stay connected to the region – but because we don’t believe in giving into individual-level hatred because of political differences. Usually we are on the same page with respect to disliking conflict and preferring peace, but when we do disagree, we debate with civility, just as we would debate American politics. Otherwise, we focus on our many common interests and hobbies that stem from our shared heritage.

A friend of Indian origin once told me,

“India and Pakistan may have separated, but that doesn’t mean that people from both sides of the border shouldn’t be close socially and culturally. I love listening to Coke Studio and going to Pakistani restaurants.”

I was incredibly touched by the sentiment. I named all the Indian music and movies I enjoyed, and told him about my desire to visit India to see all of its rich historical sites. Later, he mentioned how he wanted to see Lahore, so I told him I’d love to show him around – or otherwise we could at least end up meeting on opposite sides of the Wagah border.

To me, the fact that Pakistanis and Indians are so close to each other in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the world suggests that it is largely petty politics and propaganda that hold them back in South Asia. There is so much that the two groups can accomplish by communicating with and learning from each other, as similar challenges exist in both societies. Even if the two countries’ governments have serious disputes and grievances against one another, person-to-person interaction and cooperation is mutually beneficial and should not be stifled.

Of course, many Pakistanis and Indians living in their mother countries want peace and friendship across the border, but the paranoia, distrust, irrational hatred, and conspiracy theories are certainly not negligible. Having watched mainstream television channels airing from both countries, it is disappointing how hatred and negative stereotypes are perpetuated, turning people against each other. Constant animosity between neighbouring countries is bound to be detrimental to both sides’ economies and societies, and in the modern world there are very few examples of developed nations that are hostile towards its neighbours.

Pakistanis and Indians must move beyond the toxic, conflict-promoting politics in both states, as those outside the subcontinent have largely done. It will be a challenge, but if citizens from both sides come together today, it will lay the groundwork for future peace and prosperity. Just like their pasts, the futures of India and Pakistan are tied together – whether they like it or not. Since neither country exists within a bubble, important issues like trade, climate change, and security will not be effectively dealt with without cooperation.

Citizens and non-governmental organisations should focus on building trust, promoting peace, and improving fact-based perceptions even if the Pakistani and Indian governments quarrel. In fact, building extra-governmental relationships and trust is a good way to set the stage for government policies to change down the line. In this spirit Indians and Pakistanis can each make progress, while reducing hate and getting to know each other.

Hamza Shad

Hamza Shad

The author is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he studied economics and political science. He has written for The Diplomat, The National Interest, and The Express Tribune, among other publications.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hindustani American New York

    Factual verifiable facts for the student: Year 1100 GDP of Hindustan was 28% of world GDP and peace and prosperity was prevailing in Bharat with Sanatan Dharma as it viewed “world as one family” and there was no other religion. Then came Mughals attracted by Hindustan’s wealth and forcibly converted many to Islam using barbaric methods like force feeding OUR forefathers (yes forefathers of all in the subcontinent including current area of Pakistan were followers of Sanatana Dharma or popularly known as Hinduism)…The GDP started declining further as loot continued but looters were now the Britishers. And after independence this religious hatred continued with Kashmir with so many people’s lives being lost due to infiltration of militants. And in all this history Bharat has not gone out and invaded any other country but yes has been always been forced to self defend.
    Do you have any suggestions now to perpetrators of this hatred or any solution while we try to defend whatever is left with us??? I can’t show the blood oozing out of my heart how one of the oldest civilization and a beautiful religion with so much vibrant tradition culture and history have been plundered again and again…So please learn some history before offering empty friendships my friend.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    I wouldn’t say Indians and Pakistanis are friends overseas. They do interact with each other but otherwise have their own friend circles. However, they do come together in their love for music and films.Recommend

  • Pankaj

    We Indian will NOT give even an INCH of Kashmir to Pakistan ;CapisceRecommend

  • jay

    and mostly Bollywood films and music ! Most Pakistani i know dig bollywood they just dont admit it ,Recommend

  • Paki Terrorist

    It is because Kashmir is not an issue between the Indians and Pakistanis abroad. Stop meddling in Indian Kashmir, and relations will improve. Otherwise there will be tit-for-tat response for every action, and escalation of hostility.Recommend

  • Tore

    Yes, we are aware of the fact that India will not with free will end occupation of Jammu & Kashmir region, and preparations for Indo-Pak pak war to o occupy Pak administrated Azad Kashmir is in full swing on indian side, digging tunnels, building bunkers, buffor guns, bases, roads, rail network, ammunition depo. Sensors & cameras, satelites and deploment of troops.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    If you r talking about muslims from pakistan i can understand it.But I tell you what,pakistanis r taught to hate non-muslims specially Hindus.When you r done with your own hindu population,how can you love hindus from India. pakistanis r expert in deceiving people.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    The way rajnath singh was treated in pakistan has cleared everybody’s doubt .I always knew that pakistanis r inhospitable .But fake aman ki asha and some dumb girls from India wanted us to believe that pakistanis were very welcoming to Indians.Recommend

  • kdp

    As an example of how immigrants from both countries work together:
    My wife (Indian) is a Clinic Manager run by two Pakistani Doctors. Pakistani elderly patients are surprised to find that out especially when doctors refer to her when they request and/or bargain chrages (typical of elderly S Asian people without insurance)Recommend

  • HZR

    Tragically the few Kashmirs are spoling the relationship between the 2 nations.what could have been a fruitful relationship economically and culturally is getting poisoned.
    Focus should be on the welfare of the millions who need these scarce resources.Recommend

  • indiandude

    …..What remains are aspects of culture like language, music, cuisine, and even sports….
    These are Indian culture influences that Pakistanis have.
    Except for few geriatric punjabis, we Indians don’t consider pakistanis as Indians or part of the Indian culture or be even associated with pakistanis.

    Pakistan was demanded and created for those Indian muslims who claim that ‘the Hindus and Muslims are distinct culture and have nothing in common to keep them together as one nation.that These are Indian culture.

    ..Pakistan and India: Friends abroad always, enemies at home always always..

    Rubbish! It is usually Pakistanis that pretend to be Indians or seek out areas where Indian populations live in the North America, as it is advantageous for Pakistanis to live under Indian/South Asian umbrella.
    There is never a case when Indians tends to seek out area where there is an established pakistani community.Recommend

  • Vinod Cb

    I think what folks need to realize India is more than just Punjabis and especially when Pakistan is dominated by Punjabis. In fact Punjabi speaking folks are a minority in indian circles when taken in terms of population and influence.So it always amazes me to see folks telling that Indians and Pakistanis mix up very well outside India. What the author is stating that he gets along with Punjabi’s from india and have common threads with that community.Period.
    Would be curious to see how many non punajbis the author has got along watching tamil, malayalam, telegu, gujju movies music and food together.In fact I would venture to state that barring Punjabi’s no Indian has any thing common with a Pakistani nor do we invite them to our social gatherings as a community.It is not because we hate them but because we have nothing in common.The very few Pakistani I have come across in the USA and found to be very pleasant are non Punjabi. ThanksRecommend

  • maynotmatter

    There is some truth in what you say but the perception you are projecting is not a complete truth. Indians and Pakistanis have their own circles …yes, not because they don’t want to mingle with other but simply because any human find greater comfort and solace to hang out amongst the people with more similarities with finer details. Like amongst Indians you would see many South Indians hang out together and North Indians have their own circles. I have known a Pakistani group here who are all Karachiites but doesn’t mean they would not talk to Punjabis. But whenever an opportunity presents in ways of cultural celebrations like Id, Diwali, holi, Indians and Pakistanis , whether Hindus or Muslims, do participate in each other celebrations with equal zeal. Of course there are few stuck up people in every nationality and religion but these are the people who are thankfully in far less number here in Bay Area, California where I live. So for me, I can totally relate to what the author has brought up here. Hopefully, someday like many other nations who were historically blood thirsty for each other and now friends, India and Pakistan may someday come to some compromise on their rigid stance for greater good of it’s citizens and people of this sub-continent.Recommend

  • Sunil

    So funny. I was born overseas and am 3rd generation. We do not mix with you guys.Recommend

  • MT

    Accept it mate that ITs pakistan which needs India abroad. Indians are elites, top immigrants in west while pakistani are mediocre & needs all kinds of supportRecommend

  • Ram Dargad

    There is a need for the peace loving liberals in both countries to come together to fight the fanatics in both countries.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Abroad most Pakistanis claim themselves to be Indians. Especially those running restaurants have sign of Indian restaurants.Recommend

  • BlackHat

    True. The unfortunately, the parasitic vested interests will let go of the choking stranglehold only when the host dies, unless wisdom dawns.

    Wish a call for peace goes viral on social media across South Asia, like Arab Spring, compelling the establishment to relent.Recommend

  • RK

    Dear Hamza you probably don’t know that Pakistan is ruled by military dictatorship which exists because of this hate.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Lots of things mentioned but not terrorism??? That is expected from a Pakistani because they are in denial mode about Islamic terrorists in their own country who attack India due to their hatred towards Hindus, Pakistan will last as long as that hatred lasts
    Sorry but the author is in denial modeRecommend

  • Dhaval Patel

    on the contrary, we should just let Kashmir go. Only then they will realise who was actually nourishing and nurturing them.
    They will come back to India begging.Recommend

  • HonkyTonk Man

    We will see about that… we already took a fair bit of it and even gave some to China.Recommend

  • AJ

    Seeing SO many comment by Indians on a Pakistani news website is becoming creepy day by day. I wonder with all this hatred and negativity in your hearts about us, why do you even make effort to visit a Pakistani website and share your comments. Are some of you so much obsessed with us?

    PS I do believe in freedom of speech ans you have all the right to comment but this still is creepy.


  • Heart Breaker

    No leader from any political party till date had and has the guts to show an index finger to bring peace. India
    & Pak must continue to “talk” while soldiers on both sides gets
    butchered because we have got imbeciles sitting in the Parliament.Recommend

  • Salil Chowdhury

    What is Kashmir? It is one of the many states of India. What is the problem now? The problem is that it has the border with terrorist nation called Pakistan. What is the issue now? Pakistan says we are Muslims and they are Muslims so we want that state. What happened to other inhabitants like Kashmir Pandits? They were killed, kidnapped, raped, driven out of Kashmir by the Kashmir Muslims with the support of Pakistan. When will this problem stop? When Pakistan is further disintegrated which is being strongly pursued by Pakistan politicians and army.Recommend

  • Paki Terrorist

    Listen to Mehbooba Mufti’s latest address to the Kashmiris. She has rightly cautioned the Kashmiri people against the gun culture, giving examples of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, which all have Azaadi, but no peace.

    India must not allow another such mess in Kashmir, and pursuing the right policy in Kashmir.Recommend

  • Paki Terrorist

    My friend, all your fears will be gone, as soon as Pakistan stops meddling in Indian Kashmir. Yes, for that you must forget Indian J&K.Recommend

  • Paki Terrorist

    Say Indian Kashmir, to be specific.Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan and India are two rail tracks going parallel for miles and miles but shall not meet each other. Indian mindset is hegemonic and brutal against Muslims.Recommend

  • Sane

    But, in 1947 half of your territory was snatched and you could not do anything. Where were you at that time?Recommend

  • Sane

    Why should Pakistanis be welcoming to those who tell lies blatantly and are enemy to our homeland. By the way what is the rape score in India today. Tell separately for local women and foreigners. Also tell as how long you want to be at position of RAPE COUNTRY OF THE WORLD.Recommend

  • Sane

    and you sell Pakistani mangoes, rice branding as India.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    All Indians r enemies of pakistan.What you r gonna do now?My take..either change your way to see the stuffs or let the things remain as it is..What this author blabbers ,is simple nonsense.Recommend

  • Sane

    Just jot down as how many Muslims were killed in India in Anti Muslim riots since 1947 and how many Hindus were killed in Pakistan since 1947. The facts would be astonishing and you must be ashamed if have any morality. First, in Pakistan none of the government planned and executed Hindu (or any other minority) massacre and there was not a single incident of mass massacre in Pakistan against any minority. In various terrorist activities thousand of Muslims killed in Pakistan. These terrorist activities were also planned and executed mainly by Indian government.

    Stop your rhetoric, talk facts.Recommend

  • gp65

    Indians only comment on posts that relate to India.Recommend

  • np

    False equivalence. It is not fanaticism to resist Khalistan movement supported by Pakistan where thousands of Hindus got killed. IT is not fanaticism to resist non-state proxies I Kashmir that drove out lakhs of Pandits from their home.
    All 4 wars have been started by Pakistan. It is not fanaticism to defend one’s home land.Recommend

  • Ram Dargad

    This is exactly the kind of arguments, Pakistani fanatics also present. They harp on Kashmir problem of India, Gujarat 2002, Samjhota express blasts & justify their hatred of India. The fanatics on the 2 sides sustain each other by using mutual hatred.
    Fanatic Khalistanis killed Hindus & Fanatics ( mostly Hindu congress foot soldiers) killed Sikhs in 1984. Fanatic Islamist drove out Pandits from Valley. Fanatics created havoc in Gujarat 2002. Fanatics have ruined Pakistan. All 4 wars were started by fanatics, (even if they were Pakistanis). I still wonder, if you will get my point.Recommend

  • Baldev S Chandpuri

    bravo hamza ,let the two become one soon ,without shifting people right away.All pakistanis are luvly people.I am fond of Pakistani most people ,we must unite in to one nation of equals !Recommend

  • westwoodwizard

    So, looking at the present day territory of Pakistan, approximately 20% was made up of Hindus and that number is down to less than 1%. Sounds like a mass massacre took place…Recommend